Q&A with The Bears of Blue River

Chris Rutledge

Chicago-based freak folk band The Bears of Blue River are releasing their album “Dames” on cassette and are celebrating the release with a show at Tidball’s on Saturday night. The band will open for hometown rockers Canago as part of the Road to Starry Nights concert series. Singer/songwriter Gavin Wilkinson sat down with The Herald to discuss the album and the band’s return to Bowling Green.

Q: What brings a Chicago band to Bowling Green?

A: You guys have this budding new cassette tape company in your town called Residual Stacks. And they were willing to release our new record on cassette. And so we were like “let’s go and have the release show down there.” We haven’t played there since Starry Nights 2010, so it will be nice to come back.

Q: Why not play Nashville or Louisville instead?

A: Any place with people is an important place to play. Just because Nashville and Louisville have more recognition doesn’t make them better. There might be more people there that are open to the music that we make, but I bet there are people like that in Bowling Green too. If there’s people there that want to hear the music, then you’ve got to go and play for them. I know for certain bands it’s hard to work in the nights in the smaller towns too, but if you have the luxury to bring the show to a town, there’s no reason you shouldn’t it. I’m just excited to come play as I would be for any show.

Q: How did you end up playing Starry Nights Music Festival?

A: They asked us. They found us back in the day. I think one day I just got an email from the festival, and they said it was a new thing.

Q: Do you hope to play Starry Nights 2012?

A: I would like to. It was a fun festival. Our band sat down and had dinner with Daniel Johnston that night, and that was like, the highlight of that part of the trip.

Q: Can you tell me about the album?

A: It’s called “Dames” and we recorded it in the Fall of 2010, but it took about a year to get released. It’s a nine song record, and it’s our first full length album. It’s a little bit grittier than anything we’ve done before. It’s got a little more distortion and we tried lots of new ideas. I consider it a stepping stone for us. We made that record, and now I’m really excited to make another record just because of things that I did on that one. In the span of my music, it’s a pivotal record. Some of the songs I’d been sitting on for a really long time, and I needed it to exist. I really encourage people to listen to it, I poured my life into it.

Q: What made you interested in putting out the album on cassette?

A: Our new record hasn’t had a proper release yet, on vinyl or anything. So for the fans and everything, it just seemed like a fun option to have the record that way. I just wanted to offer our fans something crazy.

Q: Does the band still listen to cassettes?

A: I do. I don’t want to speak for all of the band. Sometimes at stores and stuff, if I only have a few bucks, it’s the cheapest option. I actually still have my Walkman, and it’s funny because it has this super bass button that I like to turn on sometime. When I’m at home I’d rather listen to vinyl, but tapes are cheap and fun. They’re like a cheap alternative for independent bands nowadays, because they really don’t cost that much to make.

Q: What is the most important thing to know about The Bears of Blue River?

A: People should know that we’ve only been doing this for a few years, and we’re still an independent band. Any interactions that they see online or anything with us, like if you see posters, that’s us doing that. The band is really important to us and we do it because we want people to hear the music we make. It’s like our little personal business. I don’t really like calling it that, but yeah.